Is Your Organization Ready to Trade in Blazers for Sneakers?

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Dress code policies are an age-old topic within the business world. Should you continue to require your employees to wear suits or buy into the casual jeans-and-t-shirt look all the Millennials are craving? This really all depends on who you are as an organization and what your culture is. For some organizations, it seems as if you have to choose between buttoned-up or laid-back but those aren’t the only options.
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10 Summer Activities for the Workplace to Enjoy

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10-Summer-Activities-for-the-Workplace-to-Enjoy

Now that the warm weather is here to stay (hopefully), it’s time to start planning those summer outings for your workplace. But why not do something a little outside of the usual picnic in the park idea? Here are some exciting and relatively inexpensive ideas, for you and your employees to enjoy this summer.

Beach Volleyball Game

Three things always go together in the summer—sun, sand, and water. So why not enjoy all three with a friendly game of beach volleyball? Your employees can bring hot dogs and hamburgers to cook out on at the local park’s grills while working up a sweat playing volleyball. Beaches, such as Battery Park, offer great volleyball courts, as well as benches and a pergola for those employees who just wish to be a cheerleader and soak up some sun. Either way, your employees will have fun playing or watching a game of volleyball, while enjoying the sun, Lake Erie, and some good food.
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The Ultimate Summer Workplace Checklist

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Sweet summertime is right around the corner. Bring on the company picnics, vacation schedules, and little league games!

The HR department is presented with plenty of opportunities and challenges when it comes to the summertime workplace. It can be hard at times to keep employees attention and focus when the sunshine is calling their name.

Here’s the ultimate summer workplace list for organizations working to make their workplace great:

1. Solidify Holiday Schedule

There are 3 national holidays U.S. employers recognize during the summer, Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day. Make sure your employees know what days they will have off due to the holidays, especially the 4th of July. If the 4th of July falls on a weekend, be sure to clarify and communicate to employees what day the office will be closed. Also be sure to communicate that to customers as well.

2. Manage Vacation Schedules

Summer is the ideal time for many people to take a vacation. Unfortunately for the HR department and management team, that means many employees wanting to schedule time off at the same time. This can lead to a shortage of workers or disappointed employees if not handled properly. Require employees to schedule time off in advance, receive approval for time off, coordinate with the their coworkers and implement a fair system specifying criteria of the process and spell out whatever limits your organization may have around taking vacation.

3. Implement a Summer Dress Code

With the weather being warmer, it may be beneficial to implement and communicate a summer dress code throughout the organization.

Be sure to effectively communicate the new summer dress code, preferably in writing. Clarify what summer attire is and what it isn’t. Determine what is allowed in terms of apparel and shoes while providing examples (i.e. sleeveless tops, open-toed shoes, flip flops, shorts, capris, etc.) It may also be beneficial to let employees know to be mindful of their daily agendas and not dress inappropriately when meeting with customers or pitching an idea to corporate, depending on policy.

Also apply your dress code uniformly to all employees, and not to a specific gender or demographic.

4. Plan a Company Outing

Summer is an ideal time to organize a company outing or picnic to show appreciation. Hosting a company outing not only shows appreciation for employees but recognizes their efforts and gives them a time to interact and bond with one another outside of the office.

Many organizations host outings at a local attraction, golf course or park.

If the budget is right, it may be nice to include spouses, significant others, or children too.

5. Wellness Program

The summertime weather also allows for more creative outdoor activities and programs to support and promote wellness throughout the organization. Try setting up a bike-to-work program, walking program, fitness activity, or pick-up game.

In addition, the summer is a great time to emphasize nutrition and healthy eating habits with the increased availability of fruits and vegetables. Several organizations have begun to provide fresh produce whenever possible to their workforce.

6. Flexible Scheduling

Many families tend to need more flexibility in the summer. Kids are out of school with little league games and sick babysitters.

Great workplaces tend to provide a bit more flexibility, such as opportunities to leave early on Fridays, revised or shorter work schedules, compressed work weeks, and longer holiday weekends.

Flexibility options allow employees extra time with their families and help them achieve better work/life balance over the summer.

7. Address Attendance Issues

Having a more flexible schedule may lead to a few bad apples spoiling the bunch. Attendance can become more of an issue in the summertime when employees may call off, take unapproved time off, or be tardy/leave work early more often.

Make sure to have an attendance policy that is clearly communicated to employees and enforce the policy consistently.

Being flexible to employees’ needs to keep attendance issues to a minimum and keep in mind that results are what counts the most at work.

8. Take Advantage of Slow-Time Opportunities

Depending on the industry, summer time can be less busy and employees have a more relaxed workload. This is the perfect time to implement development initiatives that may have been pushed to the side the rest of the year in preference of other obligations.

Training, development, programs, and other HR projects are perfect opportunities to take advantage of in the summer months.

9. Have More Fun

The summer is a great time to have more fun at work, relax, build relationships between team members, and focus on collaboration and team-building.

Team-building activities, contests, socials, and philanthropic events help employees build camaraderie and foster open communication.

Consider setting up a volunteering day in which employees spend the morning or afternoon, as a team, helping out at a local nonprofit organization.

Planting and tending to a garden throughout the summer is another fun (and delicious) activity for the workplace.

10. Mid-Year Meeting

Encourage management to have a mid-year meeting with each of their employees to talk about their progress towards their goals and their performance thus far into the year.

Employees should not be surprised by the feedback they receive or the results of their end of year performance review.

Take steps to change performance now with employees who are not performing up to standard. Conversely, with great performers, let them know they are doing a great job and encourage them to keep up the good work.

It may also be beneficial to hold a company-wide mid-year staff meeting to bring everyone up-to-date on the year’s progress, where things are thriving, where things are falling short, and to boost morale.

5 Easy Ways to Boost Summer Productivity

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Summer can drain workplace productivity. Employees generally feel more sapped of work energy and motivation during the summer. In fact, studies have found that organizations can experience a lull in productivity during the summer, with one 2011 study finding that one-in-four employers think employees are less productive in the summer.

What are some easy ways that your organization can help ensure that productivity doesn't suffer this summer? Here are a couple strategies.
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Paid Summer Holidays in Northeast Ohio Consistent with National Numbers

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With Memorial Day unofficially kicking off “summertime” in Northeast Ohio for 2013, vacations, time-off and holidays for the upcoming summer months are top of mind for employees and employers alike. While official paid-time-off and vacation policies have a different look and feel based on each employer’s organizational culture, paid holidays are more consistent across the board.

In 2012 the ERC Paid Holiday Survey found that on average, most employers were planning to offer between 9 and 10 paid holidays to their workforce in 2013, an average that has remained steady for a number of years. The range of total holidays offered also remains fairly consistent from past years with one employer reporting as few as 3 and one reporting as many as 16 days.

As the chart below demonstrates, the region is very much in line with the national standards in terms of which holidays employers choose to offer to their employees as paid holidays. All three major “summer” holidays are nearly universally part of this holiday time-off plan.


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10-Step Guide for Your Company Summer Picnic

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10-Step Guide for Your Company Summer Picnic

The annual company summer picnic or outing is a tradition for many organizations and a time to get creative to give your staff and their families a memorable experience. We’ve compiled a 10-step guide to creating a fun and unforgettable summer picnic for your employees which includes suggestions for possible local venues, entertainment, activities, food, and tips for managing the logistics.

1. Determine who to invite.

Choosing who to invite impacts many of your other decisions about the event. Will you invite just staff, their spouses/significant others, or their families? You'll need to know how many people you need to accommodate and your prospective audience in order to plan a successful picnic.

2. Choose a time.

When choosing a time for your organization's picnic, consider your organization's work schedule, employees' vacation schedules, and who you are inviting to the picnic. If the picnic involves other family members and children, after work or on a weekend may be best; whereas if you are only inviting staff, a weekday picnic may be more appropriate. Saturday around lunchtime and early-mid afternoon is usually the most common day/time to host a family picnic.

3. Pick an attractive local venue.

Selecting a new location for your summer picnic each year adds some excitement. Depending on your budget, local park pavilions, amusement or water parks, dinner cruises, outdoor festivals, or even the company premises (if conducive) are all good options for company summer picnic venues.

4. Plan fun, appealing activities that suit your audience.

Rides, inflatables, carnival games, sports, craft-making, paddle boats, pony rides, and karaoke are just a few of many activities that you could offer. Whatever activities you choose, make sure they fit your audience and the ages in attendance. Also, if your picnic involves activities, it's best to provide an agenda for the day.

5. Hire an entertainer.

Caricature artists, clowns, balloon artists, event artists, trapeze artists, gymnasts, stunt men, magicians, DJs, acrobats, face painters, jugglers, ventriloquists, comedians, fortune tellers, puppeteers, bands, soloists, dancers, and impersonators are different types of entertainers you could hire for the event.

6. Add new prizes to your raffle.

A raffle or drawing is often an anticipated highlight of the company picnic for employees and their families – especially if you give away great prizes. Skip giving away the extra PTO day this year or company logo gear. Rather, include employees’ kids and offer exciting prizes like new technology, money, gift cards and certificates, and the latest toys – all things most people love to win.

7. Theme your event.

It helps change the atmosphere and adds a fun twist. Insert your theme into your activities, food, decorations (tablecloths, center-pieces, etc.), and even communications about the event (invitations, reminders, response cards, etc.). Possible themes could include a beach party, safari, wild-west, casino, circus, Olympics, luau, field day, etc.

8. Brand your event and make it special.

Communications about the company picnic should include more than just a company-wide email or inclusion in a newsletter. Send out personal invitations to each employee and their family. Brand the picnic and display posters and communications around the workplace. Consider creating a special website or intranet site for the picnic. This helps generate excitement about it and makes your employees feel special and valued.

9. Change up the menu.

Providing “picnic staples” (hot dogs, hamburgers, salads, etc.) is important, but consider trying something different this year (see “Picnic Menu FAQs”). Trying new food options can liven up a traditional summer picnic. Additionally, while choosing a good corporate caterer is important, when management gets involved in preparing the food, this can be quite meaningful to employees.

Picnic Menu

Picnic Menu FAQs

  1. What are some popular choices this summer that companies seem to be ordering?
    Items that can be grilled on site, such as marinated chicken accompanied by some unusual side dishes such as a grilled sweet potato salad or a quinoa salad.
  2. What’s good guidance on amount of food and beverage per person?
    If grilling and offering a choice of entrees, make sure to have at least 1 to 2 pieces per person (i.e. one piece of chicken and one hot dog). By offering beverages in dispensers you are sure to have a nice variety and plenty to go around. If it is hot you want to make sure your guests stay hydrated with plenty of cold water (try infusing it with basil and cucumber for something a bit different), iced tea or lemonade.
  3. Best advice you would give a corporate summer picnic planner?
    Make sure that you are setup to keep your cold food cold and your hot food hot on your buffet line. Depending on the size of your event the logistics can overwhelming consider having either a portion or the entire event catered so you can take care of the entertainment details. Give us a call we would love to be part of your corporate celebrations this year no matter how big or how small.

Answers courtesy of Bonnie Matthew, Owner/President of ERC’s Preferred Partner Food for Thought

10. Don’t forget the classics.

Popcorn and cotton candy machines, ice cream and snow cone stands, or the annual company baseball game – the classics and traditions of company picnics – should also be included. Don’t get rid of the traditions and classic elements of a company picnic that your guests love and that are unique to your company culture.

Last but not least – don’t fail to consider the logistics – like contingency plans for rainy weather. These aren’t necessarily the most fun to plan for, but are important for a successful event.

The company summer picnic should make your guests have a great time, connect with one another, meet each other’s families, build relationships and camaraderie, and take pride in your organization. Using the tips in this guide, make your company summer picnic one that employees remember and look forward to all year.

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3 Tips to Help Workers Beat the Heat

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The August heat presents challenges for employees who don’t have the luxury of working in comfortable office settings – such as manufacturing workers and outdoor employees. Specifically, heat can impair mental alertness, physical performance, and safety, and may also lead to more conflict. Here are three ways you can help employees “beat the heat” to stay productive and safe.

Break up the day.

Breaks are one of the best ways to help employees beat the heat. Offer employees a few extra breaks during extreme heat conditions and allow them to take a break whenever they feel extremely overheated. Additionally, use earlier or later shifts (if possible) to minimize working during the heat of mid-day.

While employees are on breaks, consider finding useful opportunities for them. For example, some local companies set up learning opportunities for employees to access when they are on break, or when they get too fatigued or hot to work. Organizations create learning rooms where employees can access self-directed learning on topics that would be useful for them – either work-related or pertaining to stress management, fatigue, and wellness. These breaks are an ideal time for employees to train.

Help them stay cool.

Consider providing water and other cold beverages to help your workforce cool off during their breaks. Many employers stock coolers or refrigerators with water, Gatorade (or drinks with electrolytes), and other fluids for employees to freely access. This ensures that workers stay hydrated, thereby minimizing their risk of illness or injury on the job. Some employers also offer “cool treats” on occasion to employees. This can be a great morale booster and shows special appreciation for employees working amidst hot conditions. 

There are several other ways to help employees stay cool. Use recovery areas, such as air-conditioned rooms and enclosures. Add as much ventilation, air-cooling, and insulation as possible to the work environment. Additionally, invest in thermally conditioned clothing for employees such as ice vests, water-cooled garments, and apparel with self-contained air-conditioning.

Be aware that you may also have to help employees “cool off” not only physically, but also in an emotional sense. The discomfort heat causes can enhance irritability and anger, creating more conflict. Employees may fight more with their coworkers or lose patience easily, as a result of the intense physical conditions in which they are working. 

Minimize heat risks.

Educate employees on the signs of heat exhaustion and other heat related injuries and illnesses.  Make them aware of the symptoms to look for when on the job during hot conditions. Additionally, be aware of any employees that are more at risk of heat related issues (i.e. employees with health issues, older employees, pregnant women, etc.) and monitor them a bit more closely on the job or make special arrangements to reduce risks. Also, consider assigning more workers or using relief staff to help reduce heat stress.

Additionally, be aware of potential safety issues that arise during hot weather. Safety procedures have a tendency to be overlooked when heat persists. Personal protective equipment may become uncomfortable to wear; sweat may cause hands to slip; among other issues.  Find ways to maintain safety and reduce risks of work injuries.

Recently, OSHA created an application for SmartPhones which allows employees and supervisors to monitor the heat index at their work sites to prevent heat-related illnesses and injuries.  The application provides users with information about specific precautions they can take to reduce their risks. This application is part of OSHA’s on-going efforts to deal with the dangers of extreme heat, and can be downloaded here.

While all of these precautions and actions are beneficial to help employees “beat the heat,” most importantly, be sympathetic and understanding with employees who work in uncomfortable conditions. Make sure to ask them how they are doing throughout the day and express consideration for the challenges they are experiencing. Do everything you can as an HR professional or manager to support these employees on the job.

Additional Resources

Preferred Partners ERC partners with a number of organizations that can provide support to employers in the areas of OSHA safety training and compliance, health and safety training, workers compensation, and even workplace water solutions. 

e-Learning Center
ERC’s e-Learning Center provides thousands of self-directed courses for employees to access at an affordable cost. These courses are ideal for employers looking to provide learning opportunities for employees to access on breaks. In addition, to learn more about other training and learning opportunities offered by ERC, please click here.

HR Guide to Summer in the Workplace

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It’s that time of year again. Memorial Day signals the return of warm weather, summer activities, and plenty of HR and workplace issues from enforcing dress code and attendance policies to planning a company outing or event. This is your guide to managing summer in the workplace.

Spell out specifics in your dress code policy.

Dress code tends to become more open to interpretation during the summer (sleeveless tops, open-toed shoes, flip flops, capris, skirts, etc.), so be sure to specify exactly what you mean by “business casual” attire instead of leaving it to the employee’s discretion.  Spell out acceptable and unacceptable types of clothing and shoes (and examples), colors and styles (depending on your industry or type of organization), and specific days or situations that require different attire (such as formal or casual) that the usual. Also, be sure that you apply the dress code policy uniformly and consistently.

Provide flexible scheduling.

Now is an ideal time to remind employees of your attendance policy as issues of consistently coming into work early or late or “calling off” tend to become more of a problem during the summer months. Another way to address this issue is by introducing flexible scheduling options to allow employees to better self-manage their work/life throughout the summer. In the summer, employees are typically faced with greater work/life constraints such as more activities, family obligations, and children home from school. Seasonal perks like flex-time, shorter hours on Fridays, compressed work weeks, and revised work schedules are all offered by some employers during the summer to help employees achieve better balance.

Hire an intern or new graduate.

Another useful way organizations provide relief to their employees during the summer months is by hiring an intern or new graduate. Interns offer a variety of workforce support and assistance with special projects at an affordable cost. They also bring fresh ideas and perspectives, technical knowledge, and a desire to learn. New graduates offer similar capabilities. If you’re not sure where to start in terms of hiring and compensating an intern or new graduate, check out our Intern & Recent Grad Pay Rates & Practices Survey for detailed information about recruiting, hiring, training, engaging, and paying interns and new graduates.

Offer time off from work.

Time off is a common request during the summer with three major holidays (Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day). Be sure to communicate the paid time off your organization intends to provide for these holidays. Consult our Holiday Practices and Paid Holiday Survey for information about which paid holidays employers plan to offer this year.
Additionally, scheduling and coordinating summer vacations requires an efficient and fair process to ensure that employees are able to take time off when desired, but also that the business is able to meet its demands. Here are some common ways organizations effectively coordinate vacations and paid time off:

  • Use a vacation planner or vacation planning system.
  • Create a method for employees to request or “bid” on preferred dates of vacation – such as a vacation request form. Build in supervisory approval.
  • Require employees to schedule time off in advance, but be reasonable about how far in advance they need to schedule.
  • Have employees coordinate vacation time with their coworkers and/or self-manage vacation time.  This helps ensure that “back-ups” exist.
  • Develop policies that specify what criteria will be used to approve vacations (first come, first served, seniority, rotation, etc.).
  • Specify the limits of taking vacation (i.e. people with the same skill set can’t be out at the same time, maximum number of days, etc.).
  • Monitor and take into account other leaves (FMLA, maternity/paternity, sick, disability, etc.).
  • Remind employees that the business’ needs need to come first when scheduling vacations. As an employer, you do have the right to require an employee to postpone a vacation or require advanced notice. If you do promise vacation, however, you may be legally bound to it, according to Ohio law.

Start (or re-energize) your wellness program.

There’s no better time to start or re-energize a wellness program than at the beginning of summer. Summer is an ideal time for employees to get into shape and improve their well-being and the workplace can help them do that. Employees also tend to be more interested in wellness at this time of the year given the nice weather, outdoor activities, and greater availability of fresh and healthy foods. This can boost participation rates which help you keep your workforce healthier and manage the sting of rising health insurance costs. Here are some ideas for your summer wellness program:

  • Introduce a walking program
  • Hold company-wide wellness/fitness competitions, challenges, or team-building functions
  • Coordinate informal pick-up sports at lunch-time or after work
  • Provide fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Hold seminars on nutrition-related topics
  • Encourage employees to go outside during their lunch break, or even hold meetings outside

Plan a company outing or event.

The summer is a great time to plan a company outing or event and many businesses take advantage of the nice weather to spend time informally socializing with their employees.  Outings and events are great opportunities to get to know your staff, show appreciation, and do some team-building. Here are some tips for planning a summer event, provided by ERC’s own event experts:

  • Form a committee. Don’t plan your event alone. Get other employees involved in planning the outing and event and delegate responsibilities.
  • Define the event or outing’s purpose. Is the outing intended to be a social or networking event? Or is it an event that celebrates or recognizes something?
  • Determine the location. Outdoor locations are ideal for summer events, but make sure that the venue fits your audience and the type of event you are creating. A formal event will need a formal setting.
  • Set a date. Identify a couple potential dates and confirm the availability of the location as well as those that need to attend the event. Provide confirmations.
  • Create an agenda or timeline for the event. Lay out the entire event in terms of breaks, activities, meals, etc. and the times that they should take place. Assign roles to people on your committee and have them “own” certain tasks.
  • Communicate details. Be sure that your guests have all the information they need about the event or outing (i.e. location, directions, timing, attire, meals provided, response directions, and contact information).
  • Select food and activities. Make sure these are relevant to the type of event and the people attending, and also consider any dietary restrictions ahead of time. For example, if children will be attending the event, activities and food selections should be fitting.
  • Test-drive the event. Test equipment, walk through the venue, and get familiar with the things you’ll need during the outing. Pretend like you’re the guest.
  • Make it unique. Traditions are great, but try to build an element of surprise into your outing or event to make each year exciting. This could be a new location or venue, different entertainment, or a new giveaway.

Continue to train and guide performance.

Engagement can often become stale in the summer months. That’s why performance management, training, and development should not wane during the summer months. It’s important to keep investing in these practices so employees stay engaged and productive. For example, the summer signals mid-year, which is an ideal time for employees to meet with supervisors to discuss their performance and progress towards goals and objectives set at the beginning of the year. This discussion can help refocus employees on their goals, help establish new projects and objectives, and identify what additional support is needed. Additionally, while many employers refrain from scheduling training during the summer due to vacations, this actually can be an ideal time for training and development – especially if business is slower than normal during this season. 

Have a contingency plan for severe weather.

More severe weather is being predicted for this summer. Be sure that your organization has contingency and disaster recovery plans in place to deal with unexpected power outages, damages, and other issues that severe weather (such as thunderstorms, tornados, flooding, etc.) could cause for your business and its employees.

Prepare for budgeting. 

The summer passes quickly and budgeting will be just around the corner. With most employers planning to provide salary increases this year, it may be worthwhile for your organization to benchmark your employees’ compensation so that you are prepared to make good decisions about market adjustments and compensation increases when budgeting time approaches. Keep a compensation project on your agenda this summer and use our recently published 2011 compensation surveys as resources. Similar to compensation, use the slower summer months to catch up on major HR projects that have been on your to-do list.

The key to managing summer in the workplace is to acknowledge employees’ work/life needs, balance work with fun, and continue to engage.

Additional Resources

Supervisory Series
In the series, participants will gain an understanding of their role as a supervisor as well as employment law as it relates to common supervisory issues. They will also learn how to apply basic managerial and interpersonal skills including dealing with the everyday challenges of being a supervisor, communicating effectively with others, resolving workplace conflict, managing performance, and coaching. Click here

Emerging Leaders
This two-part series covers professional etiquette in and out of the workplace, communication skills, and the traits of a strong leader. It is an ideal course for younger professionals, such as new graduates. Participants will learn tools to present themselves more effectively and enhance their contribution to the organization. Click here.

Compensation Surveys
Get a jump-start on budgeting this summer by benchmarking compensation with our Salary Surveys which provide pay information on nearly 300 jobs that are relevant to all organizations and industries. Click here